Sarah O. Maddox. A Beautiful Reflection. Winchester, KY: Olivia Kimbrell Press, 2014. ISBN-10: 1939603293. ISBN-13: 978-1939603296. See here to purchase the book.
A Beautiful Reflection is a Christian novella for young
women. Its message is about the importance of Christians marrying
Christians rather than non-Christians. The two main characters of the
book are Susan Strasbourg and Jim Hitchenson. Susan is a devout
conservative Christian, who prays to God, attends church, abstains from
alcohol and pre-marital sex, displays a genuine interest in people, and
volunteers at a mental hospital and a school for the deaf.
Susan manages a local branch of a company, and she attends the
company’s convention in Atlanta. A handsome man sitting with his
parents and his sister at the convention keeps looking at Susan, and
Susan learns that he is Jim Hitchenson, the President of the company.
Susan is warned that Jim is quite a ladies’ man, one who loves the
ladies and then leaves them! But Jim introduces himself to Susan and
comes across as a really nice guy. He takes Susan out, and he respects
her desire not to drink alcohol. When Susan is stalked at the
convention, Jim is very protective of her and stations security guards
at her hotel door.
Jim is serious about Susan because she is beautiful on the inside and
the outside, and Jim wants the sort of wholesome family life that his
parents have. Susan loves Jim because he is handsome, is concerned
about her, has lots of energy, and loves people. But there is a slight
barrier between them. Jim has a wild past filled with promiscuity and
alcohol, and he is reluctant to share that with Susan out of fear that
she will reject him. And Susan wonders if Jim is a born-again believer,
for she wants the Lord to build her house, and she does not want to
trap Jim in any religiosity that he may later resent.
I am not the book’s target audience, but I was interested in reading
this book because I thought that it would be about different beliefs and
value systems, from an evangelical Christian perspective. In addition,
I have read my share of Christian and non-Christian romance, so I
believe that I am qualified to offer an evaluation of the book.
Overall, I wish that the book had more about conflicting values and
religious beliefs, and that it fleshed out more why it was so
problematic for believers to marry non-believers. In one scene, when
Susan was pointing out to herself that she had not yet discussed with
Jim his religious beliefs, his stance on social issues, and his
political views, I was looking forward to such a discussion, even though
I feared that it would amount to Susan suggesting that true Christians
are right-wing Republicans! (I was expecting Jim to be a Republican,
but an economic conservative and not a social or cultural
conservative.) I was hoping for more substantive discussions, beyond
the romantic dialogue that was throughout the book. Why did Susan and
Jim believe and behave as they did, and how could the disparity between
their beliefs pose problems to them if they were to get married,
especially when Jim seemed to respect Susan’s convictions? The author,
Sarah O. Maddox, asked thoughtful questions in the back of the book, but
I was hoping for more in the story itself.
I was also disappointed that certain aspects of the plot were not
revisited. For example, in the book’s preface, we are told about
Susan’s relationship with a Christian man, Rob, long before she met
Jim. Rob proposed to Susan, but Susan prayed about Rob’s proposal and
turned Rob down, concluding that she saw Rob as more of a friend than a
potential husband. The events of the preface are never mentioned in the
remainder of the book. Perhaps readers are supposed to draw their own
conclusions, but there were questions in my mind that I was hoping would
be addressed. What did Susan learn from this experience? And can this
experience shed light on why Susan was responding to Jim as she was?
Something else that perplexed me was the reaction of Jim’s sister
Violet to the relationship between Jim and Susan. Violet had been
romantically involved with Dan, and Dan broke off the relationship
because Dan was a non-Christian and Violet was asking him if he had a
born again experience. Yet, Violet was happy that Jim met Susan and
never brought up to Susan the topic of whether Jim is a believer and how
Jim and Susan would be unequally yoked were they to marry. Maybe
Violet was just happy that Jim had met a good Christian woman, who was
different from the women Jim had previously dated.
Overall, though, I liked the book. Although I sometimes questioned
if Maddox was right to tell us Jim’s feelings for Susan early in the
book—-I was wondering if readers would be better off wondering if Jim’s
love for Susan was real—-I did appreciate the theme of Jim being a
recovering playboy who was looking for a wholesome family life. And I
liked his sister, Violet.
The publisher sent me a complimentary review copy of this book through Bookcrash, in exchange for an honest review.
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